A story about going to the park alone, and getting more people on the playground

The other afternoon during one of our recent stretches of beautiful weather, I walked to Green Lake with a frisbee in my hand… and nobody to throw it to. I thought, “Whatever, I’ll just find someone there and see if they want to toss the disc with me.” I’m not usually this forward, but it was so nice out, and I really wanted to throw the frisbee.

I got to the park and saw two groups of people with a disc. I thought, “Great! I’ll join them.” But when I got closer I saw that one of the groups was a couple and I didn’t want to interrupt them if they were on a date or something. And the other group was caught up in a game of some sort, so I got shy about interrupting them, too. I ended up casually curving my walk away from them, as if something on the other side of the park was slowly grabbing my attention.

But I really wanted to throw the frisbee! It was in my hand, just begging to be hucked back and forth across the field. I saw a guy walking away from the basketball courts. To his surprise I approached him and asked if he wanted to throw with me. He shook his head and mumbled something about it being margarita time. I kind of laughed and said, “Okay, that’s cool.”

Eventually I got up the nerve to go back to that group of people who were playing a game. They weren’t playing now, just hanging out talking, so I walked up to them. At this point my confidence was waning so I fibbed and said my frisbee partner ditched me and would they be interested in throwing around. They looked at me and at each other awkwardly before one gal said, “I think we’re gonna leave soon, but sure I’ll throw with you a little.” We exchanged about a dozen throws before it was clear her friends were devising a plan to get their friend away from this creepy lone frisbee guy (me), so I bowed out as gracefully as possible, meandered through the park a little while longer, and then headed home and put my disc away.

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Wow, Aldan, that’s a terrifically sad story about a boy no one would play frisbee with, but what does that have to do with biking around town?” I’m glad you asked! After this experience, I started thinking of all the people who probably want to ride bikes through Seattle to get from A to B, but who are nervous about traffic or don’t know the best routes or are concerned about the hills / weather / clothing / you-name-it. These folks may even already have what they need to get started: a bike, some gear, a helmet, etc., and would readily go out and ride, if only… if only they had a buddy. Someone who could show them the basics and get them over that first hill on the learning curve.

And I thought, what a bummer that must be. To really want to ride, but to be sort of stuck, like me with my frisbee, wishing for a partner or group of friends with whom to share the activity. And at the same time, what an opportunity! If you ride, do you know anyone who casts slightly envious glances at you when you walk into the office / apartment / café with your bike? Maybe you could offer to ride with them to work or the market one day to get them started.

Or maybe you’re the one who’s mentioned in the past how much you’d like to bike, but you haven’t gotten around to it. Would having an experienced buddy be helpful for you? If so, maybe ask one of your biking friends to ride with you, or be like me and approach total strangers: sound off in the comments section below. You may be shy about asking for help and interrupting someone’s good time, but I’ve found that many riders are happy to share their knowledge and demonstrate best practices with newcomers. 

Or maybe you’ve already tried these things. Leave a comment to let us know how it went.

Here’s to reaching out to those who want to play, and to the courage it takes to ask for help and start something new.

hub and bespoke biking with a buddy

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8 thoughts on “A story about going to the park alone, and getting more people on the playground”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Aldan! I, too, long to play Frisbee, but have no one to play with; always staring longingly at Frisbees, should I find myself in their midst, I end up sadly turning away. There’s a great idea for an outing – bikes and frisbee!

  2. Aw! I’m sure at Gas Works Park, you would have found a welcoming buddy. Green Lake is too prissy 😉 Then also, this *is* Seattle. One just has to read a single article about the Seattle Freeze to read way too much into every interaction (or maybe that’s just me!).

    I think the Bicycle Alliance used to have a Bike Buddy program for being shown commute routes. Does that still exist? Official programs are nice, but an unofficial nudge is even better!

    Last summer I met a friend at her house and escorted her to a Critical Lass ride, showing her a nice route from North Green Lake to mid-Ballard (6th Ave NW FTW!) and it was so fun–for both of us. I think I might need to work on my pitch because I feel like I do a lot of bullying–I mean, inviting–but don’t get a lot of takers.

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience. I bought a bike in the fall that I have yet to really ride. On occasion, I look on-line for beginner rides in Seattle, but have yet to find anything that seems right. What I’m ideally hoping will pop up is something similar to a surf school I went to in La Jolla once, Surf Diva. Just biking with experienced bikers who want you to succeed, and no experience necessary. It is like having a big sister (or brother) who does something cool and mentors you. I live in Seattle and bought my bike here, but I’m from Tacoma and I keep my bike at my mom’s place. I realized I wasn’t going to ride in Seattle. I think Tacoma’s bike culture is blooming and not intimidating. I plan to get started there. When I build my confidence, I’ll bring the bike back up to my apt. in Seattle.

    1. Caressa, thanks very much for speaking up! Both of the resources Madi of FamilyRide mentioned (Spokespeople and Critical Lass) came to mind as soon as I read your comment. Friendly people who have lots of experience on bikes, and who teach good riding habits in a non-intimidating way. I’m confident you could find that “big sister or brother” type of person there, or at the very least a new set of buddies to ride with.

      If you’re looking for more of a class type setting, there’s also the adult programs at Bike Works and Cascade Bicycle Club, though note that these have enrollment fees.

      Please let us know what you decide– it would be great to have you biking in Seattle!

  4. Great post Aldan, thanks for sharing that experience. I think we’ve all been there in some experience, but I’ve never felt that way about biking because I have been an expert for so long. This is a great reminder to think about how new people are feeling, and getting more cyclists on the road is good for everyone! I will keep an eye out for folks who might need a buddy to get them started, and I will also try to wear more vests like the dapper gentleman in the photo 😀

    1. Thanks for your comment, Andy. I think there are many like you who have been riding for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a newbie (or even a maybe) rider. Great that you’re up for being someone’s buddy! And that you’ll be looking dapper in the process. =)

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